The snowballing anger among conservative opinion leaders toward John McCain — an anger that is not mirrored among Republican rank-and-file, whose approval-disapproval rating for McCain is 72-19, according to the Pew Poll, fifteen points higher than Mitt Romney’s in both categories — suggests they are confusing ideological convictions with political tactics, and infusing a disagreement on how to approach problems with a moral edge it does not deserve.
Whatever John McCain is, he is not a liberal. But he disappoints conservatives because, astonishingly enough, he lacks the Right’s partisan combativeness — which seems surprising, given his background as a warrior and his stiff-necked heroism in staring down his North Vietnamese torturer-jailers. He may be a military man through and through, but he is not a team player, to put it mildly. In partisan terms, he often seems determined not to march in lockstep simply because others expect it of him. That’s why, among other things, he has been so wildly incompetent at using his own perfect pro-life record iin the House and Senate to his own benefit in seeking support from Republicans who share his anti-abortion views. Such a thing would require him to fall in line, and McCain does not fall in line.
Podhoretz may have put his finger on an essential personality characteristic of McCain, for what it's worth. He is describing the essence of a "maverick". Lots of people don't like mavericks and, as is well-known, they aren't generally good team players. McCain has shown over and over again that he is not committed to marching in lockstep with the conservative team and prefers to use his own tactics to get things done.
I think thought, to call McCain a 'liberal' is pure fantasy. Take a look at the people who genuinely fear a McCain presidency, for example.
Also read this and this. Personally, I don't think we really have to fear this scenario, because McCain is who he is, and ideologically has been the same person for a few decades. It is his tactics that drive fellow conservatives nuts.
Read the entire Podhoretz piece in Commentary. I'd appreciate my readers' thoughts.